Dance is not just a form of art, but also a form of healing technique. Various studies prove that dance dons an array of health benefits. Health benefits include physical, cognitive, emotional, social and spiritual factors as well. Namrata T Talukdar, an experienced Bharatnatyam and Manipuri dancer believes that dancing is an apt way to fitness, which is enjoyable and relaxing throughout, and that is known as dance therapy.
In fact, studies reveal that dance renders numerous health advantages like >45 percent reduction in cardiovascular death; >75 percent reduction in the risk of dementia; reduction in stress and pain; improving body balance and muscle strength and much more. When we dance, we also use hands and fingers for the movements that further increase motor skills of the person and enhances the brain's productivity in communicating. Dance, in a real sense, works like a therapy. Namrata runs a foundation by name, Urja, and a dance school, Shivang where she renders dance therapy classes. Anybody can dance and drive out the negativity from his or her body & surroundings, while catalyzing positivism in further catalyzing self growth and development. Her empathy-driven-behavior-design and strategized-dance-movements foster a better you by cultivating and reaping positivism within your, for you.
Let's hear from Namrata about how dance and dance therapy has become an integral part of her life.
Tell us about yourself.
I am a Bharatnatyam and Manipuri dancer based in Guwahati. I am a disciple of Professor M R Krishnamurthy, who is a disciple of the legendary Rukmini Devi Arundale.
I am also a Dance Therapy facilitator and have studied creative movement therapy or dance therapy from CMTAI (Creative Movement Therapy Asssociation of India), certified by CID, UNESCO, France.
Apart from holding a law degree from Bangalore institute of Legal Studies, I have done my Masters in Bharatnatyam from Bharatidasan University, Thiruchipally.
I perform as well as teach dance and conduct dance therapy workshops.
What led you to undergo a transition from legal studies to the masters in Bharatnatyam?
I have pursued dance ever since I could remember. It has been a way of life for me and a constant factor of motivation in my life. I did legal studies to obtain an academic qualification, whereas, my heart and soul was in dance - always!
Let’s talk about dance therapy.
Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) can be defined as the use of movements and dance as a medium to improve the mental and physical well being of individuals. It is founded on the principle that body and mind are inseparable and that there is a relationship between motion and emotion as stated by the pioneer of DMT, Ms. Tripura Kashyap. Everyone is not comfortable to express himself or herself through the verbal medium. However, communicating is essential. DMT creates a safe space where the client (or a person) honestly shares his or her inner self. It creates a room for self exploration and self expression.
Mariam Chase, the founder of Dance Therapy began her career as a teacher. In her classes, she found that students came from all walks of life and were not interested in learning dance for the sake of performance. Rather, they came to enrich themselves by experiencing the aesthetics of dance. Hence, she began to experiment, simplify movements to adhere to the needs of non dancers.
During the Second World War, America was facing problems of rehabilitating the soldiers, who were discharged because of being emotionally disturbed caused by the stress of war time experiences. New approaches like activity therapy, art therapy and many other kinds of group therapy were being developed to accelerate the rehabilitation process. During this time, Mariam Chase used movements to make contacts with these patients because they did not respond to verbal therapy.
How is it different from Zumba and Aerobics?
Dance or movement is the basic need of a human being. When we dance or do Zumba, Aerobics, etc., endorphin secretion in the body gets increased, thus, creating a sense of well being. It enhances blood circulation, body releases toxins through sweat and we feel energized by this cathartic experience.
Whereas, in DMT, there are therapeutic goals where the real life problems are addressed. Its purpose is to navigate and channelize wants, feelings and thoughts through movements.
What are the impacts of dance therapy on mental & physical health?
Our body holds all the memories and our secrets. According to a psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Reich, we hold tensions or unexpressed feelings in the form of muscular tensions. DMT sessions become a medium through which material from our unconscious can be drawn out. Being aware of how we move tells us about who we are. And sometimes awareness itself can bring about transformation. Hence this whole process leads to mental and physical well being of a person.
Does it have any diet specification or restriction?
There is no diet specification or restriction as such.
What sort of challenges do you face in making people understand the concept and value of dance therapy?
There are certain challenges that exist and we constantly put in efforts to strive. Since it is called as a therapy, there is a stigma attached to therapies. It is a general notion that only people with certain mental condition need therapy. Whereas, this dance therapy is for all the people. People with no prior dance experience can also do it. But it is, however, better for the clients to experience it as they are highly benefitted by DMT sessions. I’m glad that the awareness is increasing and clients are able to use them and ge more benefits, but it will take some time more for the people to know about it entirely.
Tell us about the types of dance therapies or therapy based activities you make people do.
Every session is unique depending on the client and the setting. There are a variety of techniques like the "Chasian technique" where the therapist picks up different movements from the clients and use them as a tool to create opportunities to improvise. Sometimes, it may involve increasing awareness of the body to identify sensations and the emotions. There are practices like authentic movement, Laban movement analysis and Kestenberg's movement analysis, which may be adopted during DMT sessions.
With what sort of focus areas/ problems, do people come to you to learn dance therapy?
Anybody can be a part of DMT sessions. You do not need any prior experience in dance. If you just want to reconnect with yourselves through your body, then DMT is for you. We work on areas like building concentration, mindfulness, to regulate actions and speech, self esteem, motivation and letting go inhibition, hyperactivity and body image. It helps in building leadership skills, social skills, self expression through stress relief and relaxation. Self perception, self acceptance, trust building and self introspection are some of the objectives we work upon in DMT sessions.
What sort of therapy-based activity would you make people do to release their stress?
We do rhythm based activities, which provide a grounding experience that brings the person here and now. Activities are developed in which body movements, hand gestures and facial movements are used to express different emotions of joy, sorrow, fear, anger, disgust, surprise and love. There are also many movement-relaxation techniques, which we use for stress relief.
Can pregnant women also take part in the classes?
Dance therapy can be attended by pregnant women after consulting the doctor. It is a time when a woman goes through a lot of changes in the body and mind. So, DMT can be an alternative medium to maintain wellness for them as well.
Do you render dance therapy to children as well? How does it benefit them?
Yes, we do DMT sessions with children also. Dance therapy sessions are immensely beneficial for children. It enhances their gross and fine motor movements. It helps them release their pent up energies. It enhances memory, concentration, mindfulness, empathy and group interaction.
How many clients for the therapy you have handled so far?
I am working with various setups like corporate, educational institutions, de-addiction centres, NGOs, orphanages, housewives etc.
Do you teach in a group only, or also individually?
I facilitate dance therapy for groups as it enhances their social skills and the ability to relate with others. The DMT sessions are seen by the therapist as a microcosm of real life situation, which influences a person's behavior and actions in daily life.
Tips for those who want to become a dance therapist.
I resonate with the lines by Soul Canvas which says "the human soul doesn't want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed - to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is".
My only tip would be to be to engage with another person in its real sense. We as therapists or facilitators are also human with doubts and emotional insecurities. But our ability to be present and engage with another individual with unconditional regard can be very therapeutic and healing.
In association with Nivedita Tiwari, Urja: North East Center for Movement & Arts Therapy was founded. Nivedita is a certified Arts based therapy practitioner from World Center for Creative Learning Foundation, Pune. After graduating in psychology, she has done her Masters in Social Work in Disability Studies and Action from TISS, Mumbai. Urja conducts workshops with children and adults using Arts, i.e., dance, art, music and drama as a therapeutic medium to help them develop an insight about self by providing an alternative medium of expression.
Now, coming back to your passion for dance, we would like to know about your experience (of performing) at the Hampi Festival of Karnataka & the Natyanjali festival of Chidambaram.
I have performed Bharatnatyam there. It was a great honour to be a part of such prestigious festivals of India. Renowned artists from all over the world perform at the Hampi Utsav and Natyanjali festival of Chidambaram. I felt extremely blessed to get the opportunity to dance in the temple of Lord Nataraja at Chidambaram. Witnessing the Hampi Utsav at the historical city of Hampi reminded me of the glorious past of India and I was overwhelmed to be a part of such cultural extravaganza.
You also teach dance in Bengaluru and Chennai. Do you also teach Manipuri Dance there or only Bharatnatyam?
I was a dance faculty in the Shankara Foundation, Bangalore and in Chennai, where I was teaching Bharatnatyam. After changing my base to Guwahati, I am imparting Bharatnatyam training at my own centre - "Shivang" which is in Beltola. At the Shivang, we also impart Manipuri dance training.
Considering that a lot of contemporary dance forms are making a foray and the fact that many people are taking interest in them, do you feel that the existence of classical dance forms have been diminishing? If so, how that can be improved?
Absolutely! It is very heart aching to see that our Indian classical forms are being replaced by the other contemporary forms of dance. I personally enjoy all the forms of dance, but I feel we should encourage the young generation to practice and appreciate our own infinitely rich classical forms too.
Indian classical dance is a perfect blend of body, emotions and intellect. It demands the knowledge of great philosophers, literature, poetry and music. I feel, we (as adults), first, need to educate ourselves about our own rich traditions so that the new generation learns to appreciate the same.
How popular are fusion forms of contemporary-classical dances? Do you also teach them at your own centre, Shivang? What other dance forms are taught at Shivang?
The fusions of classical and contemporary forms are excellent ways of blending old with the new. It enriches us and makes us more inclusive in nature, which is why it is gaining popularity.
Yes, I do blend different forms in my choreography. We also impart Manipuri dance training to the young at Shivang.
Any experiments you're currently doing for the fusion forms?
I have blended Bharatnatyam and Manipuri dance. Presently, we are working on a therapeutic choreography. We are working on different qualities of movement, and exploring the use of choreographic tools to enhance ones well being.
They focus on the therapeutic potential of a performance, based on movements explored during the sessions. It includes micro and macro movements, shadowing, mirroring, unison and asymmetrical movements, movement motifs, etc.
Your favourite dance form: All forms of Dance
Your motto of life: Dance your way to health…….
What is Dance for you?
Dance for me is a way to get in touch with my deeper emotional and spiritual part of me. It opens the path for me to reach my highest potential.
Given a magical wand, 3 wishes you would make?
I have only wish and that is -- To have answers to all my questions.
It isn't necessary for you to have any knack or training in dancing to learn dance therapy. If you want to stay healthy and fit without fretting a lot for not being able to go for morning walks or jogging sessions and for not being able to follow stringent diet routines; then embrace this fun and enjoyable way to good health.
Dancing heals, and you would get to know once you undergo dance therapy.